In the last 48 hours, multiple NBA sources said Cleveland was leaning toward drafting Maryland's Alex Len, a burly, more complete center than Noel. The Cavaliers have never been afraid to think outside the box -- see last season's surprise pick of Dion Waiters -- but it's hard to see them passing on Noel, who has significantly more upside than Len. One thing is becoming clear: The Cavs will keep this pick. Cleveland continues to aggressively shop it, but one executive said the Cavs have completely overvalued it," asking for a young All-Star in return. Noel is a 7-foot defensive menace who will solidify the middle, either at power forward or center, and fortify a defense that ranked last in the NBA in defensive field-goal percentage (47.6) last season.
This is another spot where there are a lot of smokescreens going up. McLemore has not been particularly impressive in workouts, and his recent decision to dump his agent raised red flags. But before we get all worked up about McLemore's poor workouts, remember this: A smart executive isn't going to put much stock in them, not after a solid college season. Several executives believe that McLemore, a prototypical 2-guard, has All-Star potential. As SI.com has been reporting, the Magic continue to work the Clippers for a deal that would send Eric Bledsoe to Orlando for a package headlined by Arron Afflalo, but Los Angeles prefers to hold on to Bledsoe for now in the hopes of landing a bigger offer, a source said.
This is close to a lock. Porter did not work out for Charlotte, a sign he is confident he will be a top-three pick. Anthony Bennett and Victor Oladipo will get some consideration here, but it would be very surprising if the Wizards passed on Porter, a versatile forward with an excellent mid-range game who will fit right into a young core headlined by John Wall and Bradley Beal.
Here is where things could get interesting. Oklahoma City is pushing hard to get into the top five, with Len as the target, dangling the No. 12 and No. 28 pick in return. Could Charlotte move down? The Bobcats badly need a big man to shore up a frontcourt that ranked among the worst scoring and rebounding units in the league. The uber-talented Bennett will get strong consideration here because, as one league executive said, "Teams are a little scared to pass him up." But two rival executives believe that Len -- a physical center who rebounds well, protects the paint (2.1 blocks) and can play with his back to the basket -- is on the rise despite the fact that a stress fracture in his left ankle kept him out of individual workouts. And remember this: New coach Steve Clifford has an excellent reputation when it comes to developing big men. Hall of Fame center Patrick Ewing was recently added to Clifford's staff, too.
Oladipo, despite lingering concerns about his perimeter shooting, continues to interview well and work out well. His strong performance at the combine last month was exactly what teams wanted to see. "He doesn't give you many reasons not to like him," a Western Conference executive said. Oladpio is renowned for his work ethic and teams love his athleticism and bulldog defensive mentality, attributes that should enable him to contribute right away.
The Pelicans are torn here. They would love to get their hands on Len, who would pair well with Anthony Davis. But an NBA source said GM Dell Demps has been warming up to Burke, a dynamic scorer and playmaker who did everything a college player could to boost his stock last season. It remains unclear if the Pelicans believe Austin Rivers is capable of playing the point long term, but Burke's potential is too compelling to pass up.
As much as the Kings want a point guard, Bennett's upside is too appealing. "He's ridiculously talented," said a Western Conference GM. "There's a superstar in him." Bennett is an explosive athlete, has a credible back-to-the-basket and face-up game and legitimate three-point range (38.3 percent last season). He's something of a tweener, but the Kings have holes at both forward spots. He will find a place to play. A source said Shabazz Muhammad had an excellent workout with the Kings earlier this month. Expect him to get some consideration here, too.
There are strong indications that with its frontcourt set, the Pistons want to land a point guard here to develop alongside Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Carter-Williams remains something of a project, but he is a dazzling playmaker who excels in the open floor. He will need to polish his jump shot and tighten his dribble, but many executives believe his upside is higher than Burke's. A source says the presence of Brandon Knight won't stop Detroit from grabbing a playmaker; the Pistons are fine with moving Knight to the off-guard or the bench.
The Wolves are zeroing in on a shooter, with Caldwell-Pope and C.J. McCollum emerging as the favorites. Caldwell-Pope made huge strides as a sophomore, surging up a few teams' draft boards late in the season. He's a prototypical 2-guard who could help a team that ranked dead last in three-point shooting last season. Minnesota continues to look to move up, dangling this pick and Derrick Williams as bait, but so far there have been no takers. A dark horse here is Muhammad, who would give the Timberwolves a more dynamic wing scorer.
Could it be a long night for Muhammad? Yes. But it says here a player with his talent won't fall out of the top 10. There is top-pick talent in Muhammad, a physical, 6-6 swingman with terrific reflexes and an array of moves around the rim. Muhammad told me earlier this month he is patterning his game after James Harden, and if he turns out to be anywhere close to the player Harden is, he will be a steal. The Blazers need scoring help on the wing and Muhammad, who got a lot of offense playing off of UCLA point guard Larry Drew last season, could fit in well with the Blazers' Damian Lillard.
The Sixers don't expect Zeller to be on the board here, but if he is, a frontcourt-starved team such as Philadelphia won't pass him up. Zeller has shown a nice touch on his jump shot during individual workouts, a major concern for teams after last season. He projects as more of a power forward in the NBA and the Sixers, who with Andrew Bynum out got virtually nothing from their post players last season, badly need offense in the paint.
Pick acquired from Raptors via Rockets: Multiple league executives say the Thunder are among the most active teams, looking to trade up, down or out of this year's draft. One exec said Oklahoma City is asking for two future first-round picks in exchange for No. 12, a steep price no one is willing to pay. Drafting Adams is almost like getting a future first-rounder, as Adams is a project who will best served spending all of next season in the D-League getting used to the speed of an NBA game. But Adams workouts have GM's drooling. "If he were as good as the sum of his parts, he would be in the mix for No. 1," said an Eastern Conference executive. That's just the type of player the Thunder jump on.
League sources say the Mavs continue to push this pick in a package with Shawn Marion, but it's becoming more likely that they keep it. Dallas has one of the sharpest international scouting staffs in the NBA and are said to be high on Karasev, a prototypical small forward. Karasev faced quality competition in the PBL, Russia's top league, and reportedly looked sharp at the Nike Hoops Summit in April. He is an excellent catch-and-shoot player who will be ready to play right away.
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The Jazz badly need a point guard, and Schroeder and Shane Larkin are the best of the remaining bunch. Rumors around the league persist that Schroeder has an early first-round promise, and the Jazz make as much sense as any. Schroeder, says an Eastern Conference scout, "is a miniature [Rajon] Rondo." At 19, Schroeder has natural point-guard instincts, superior speed and an improving jump shot. Several teams in the 20's would love for him to fall, but don't expect Schroeder to get past too many point-guard starved teams.
McCollum's stock has slipped with fewer teams looking at him as a point-guard prospect. "He's not Damian Lillard," said a Western Conference coach. "He just doesn't have the same instincts." With Monta Ellis headed to free agency -- and potentially pricing himself out of Milwaukee -- McCollum is a younger, cheaper alternative the Bucks can groom as Ellis' replacement. Despite missing half of last season with a foot injury, McCollum has shown during workouts that he is an NBA shooter.
Questions about Olynyk's strength and concerns about how, after three years at Gonzaga, he will match up with bigger, more physical defenders are starting to stick, and there is a growing sense that he could slip out of the lottery on draft night. But there is no denying Olynyk's offensive skills. He has a variety of moves in the post and at the combine showcased guard-like shooting from the perimeter. With Boston on the verge of a rebuild -- the departure of Doc Rivers certainly hastened that process -- grabbing a player with Olynyk's potential is a smart pick.
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Worth noting here: The Hawks are exploring several options, including trading one or both picks and/or using its two first-round picks on players they can stash overseas. Executives scouting Nogueira love his rebounding and shot-blocking potential, as well as his ability to play in the open floor. "He runs like a deer," said a Western Conference exec. "When he puts some weight on, he's got the potential to be a starting center."
Pick acquired from Rockets: Franklin's poor three-point shooting is an oft-mentioned concern. But the analytics guys around the league like players who can do a little of everything and Franklin, who led San Diego State in points, rebounds, assists and steals last season, is that kind of player. He also plays with energy and is a solid defender.
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Pick acquired from Lakers: An NBA source confirmed an ESPN.com report that Houston is looking to move into this area of the first round, dangling Thomas Robinson as bait. Barring a trade, the Cavs will likely look for a small forward here. Adetokunbo created a lot of buzz after a strong performance in Europe earlier this month, but there are still plenty of concerns. Adetokunbo's representatives have been telling teams he is a point guard, a position no one thinks he can play. There are concerns about the level of competition Adetokunbo has faced -- one exec likened it to Division-III talent -- and if he is strong enough to defend NBA forwards. Still, Adetokunbo has great point-forward potential, even if he has to be stashed overseas for a year or two.
Amid reports that the Bulls are shopping forward Luol Deng -- and with three-point shooting a glaring weakness -- Bullock is a safe pick. This may be a little high for him, but Bullock is an excellent perimeter player who rebounds well for his position and should be able to contribute quickly.
Several league executives believe Plumlee's low ceiling has hurt his stock in recent weeks. With Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap headed to free agency, the Jazz could use some insurance up front. Plumlee is an athletic 7-footer with good hands and a knack for finishing around the rim. He's also considered a highly intelligent big man who should adapt well to a reserve role backing up Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors.
Dieng continues to be all over the board, as concerns about his limited offensive potential are causing his stock to fluctuate. Brooklyn doesn't need any more offense from the pivot; what they need is defense, which Dieng can provide. The Big East Defensive Player of the Year last season after swatting 2.5 shots and pulling down 9.4 rebounds per game, Dieng also has a better offensive game than most think. He is a strong passer with a decent midrange jump shot, and scouts also say he is one of the best screen men in the draft.
Larkin is getting some looks from teams in the late lottery, but it says here that his size will keep him in the 20's. Still, Larkin is a phenomenal athlete -- he topped the combine in the 3/4 court sprint (3.08 seconds) and vertical leap (44-inches) -- and an excellent ball handler who projects to play well in the pick-and-roll. George Hill has been steady for Indiana but the postseason exposed the Pacers' need for a more dynamic point guard. Larkin has that potential.
The Knicks are looking for frontcourt help. Mitchell is enigmatic but he is a 6-foot-9, 236-pound man-child with undeniable inside-out skills and tantalizing talent (he compares himself to Denver's Kenneth Faried) who every scout agrees has lottery talent. With the future of Amar'e Stoudemire uncertain, Mitchell is just the type of young talent that the Knicks should take a chance on to develop alongside Carmelo Anthony.
Someone in the first round will take a flyer on Gobert, and with DeAndre Jordan on the trading block, the Clippers are in a position to do so. Gobert is impossibly long, 7-2 with a 7-8 1/2 inch wingspan and a 9-7 standing reach, both combine records. He didn't show much offensively at the combine, though, and he has struggled in workouts with several execs expressing concern about his lack of post moves and slender frame.
Pick acquired from Memphis: If the Wolves get a shooter early, look for them to get some frontcourt help here. Withey is a skilled defender who is athletic enough to play either power spot. He doesn't create much offense for himself, but he can finish around the rim. He will get plenty of opportunities there playing alongside Ricky Rubio in Minnesota.
Ledo is a risk, but the reward could be huge. There are legitimate concerns about Ledo's maturity (Ledo missed all of last season because of academic issues after bouncing around several high schools) and several executives have told me that they fear how outside influences will impact his career. But the kid can shoot. Several executives from teams picking higher like Ledo, so he could be off the board here. If he isn't, Denver, which could lose Andre Iguodala this summer, should snap him up.
With the Spurs on the lookout for a potential replacement for Manu Ginobili, Snell could be a sleeper. Snell can catch and shoot and create offense off the dribble, and is expected to be a strong defender. Snell was uneven for the Lobos last season, but he has looked good in individual workouts and could be worth a flyer here for a team that can afford to allow him to develop next season.
The Thunder would like to deal this pick, preferably in a trade to move up or for a future first-rounder. Rice isn't the three-point shooter his father was, but he is coming off a very productive season in the D-League -- the Thunder are one of the biggest proponents of the D-League -- where he did a lot to repair a reputation that was battered at Georgia Tech.
Pick acquired from Miami: Crabbe has legitimate NBA range. His three-point percentage last season was his lowest in three seasons at Cal, but he shot well at the combine, has good size for his position and has shown an ability to use screens well. Questions remain as to whether Crabbe can develop into a complete NBA player but scouts love that Crabbe played big minutes each season at Cal.
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